Bryan Hitch’s Justice League of America seems like a comic that targets squarely at readers like myself. We are getting treated to a classic version of the JLA. Plus, we get Hitch’s artwork which I always enjoy. Unfortunately, we are also getting Hitch as the writer. And, in general, I am usually not a fan of comic books that are written by the artist. Still, I cannot pass up a Justice League of America featuring a most decidedly pre-New 52 line-up. Will Hitch exceed my low expectations for his writing and deliver a well constructed story? Let’s hit this review for Justice League of America #3 and find out!
Words: Bryan Hitch
Pencils: Bryan Hitch
Inks: Daniel Henriques
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Flash and Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) suddenly appearing in the middle of a battle scene between two ancient armies. Flash immediately notes that the gravity wherever they have been transported to is much stronger than on Earth. Barry tells Hal to get his power ring charged up. Barry then races around in a circle around Hal to protect him from the two warring armies.
Hal quickly summons his battery lantern and says his oath and recharges his power ring. Hal then uses his ring to take out both of the fighting armies. Hal yells out that Barry can stop running. However, suddenly, the Flash disappears in a bolt of lightning.
Green Lantern asks his ring to locate Barry. The power ring says that the Flash is not on the planet and that it detects excessive residual Speed Force. Hal asks the ring to tell him where they are. The ring says that they are on the planet Krypton about 250,000 before Krypton was destroyed.
We cut to Olympus, or at least the ruins of Olympus that are floating in space. Wonder Woman locates an Oraculum. Wonder Woman asks the Oraculum who attacked Olympus and where are all of the gods. The Oraculum responds that the gods have fled because they feared what was coming. Wonder Woman asks what is coming. The Oraculum responds “The end of everything.”
Wonder Woman says that she was pulled to this location from battle. Wonder Woman tries to teleport away but she cannot. The Oraculum says that there is an energy surrounding Olympus that was intended to trap the gods here when it was destroyed. The Oraculum does not know where the energy came from and does not know where the gods went.
We cut to New York. The city has been quiet ever since Rao arrived. Crime has been eradicated. The hospitals are empty as Rao has gotten rid of illness. We see a man named Arthur Spinks on TV. He is a career criminal who says that once he met Rao that everything changed. Rao blessed him and suddenly Arthur no longer wanted to commit crimes. That now he just wants to help people.
We see fund-raiser volunteers for a local church telling their pastor that they have not gotten a single donation since Rao arrived. The pastor says that since Rao’s Kryptonian prophets started healing everyone in the name of a god everyone can see that people stopped surpassing the churches. (No duh.) Kevin, a teenage volunteer, says that maybe they should start praying to Rao. Rao then appears on the scene and says that he has heard Kevin’s prayers.
Rao then transported Kevin, the pastor and the other volunteers to Africa. Rao asks if these are the people the church volunteers are collecting money for. The pastor says that they do what they can. They feed some, supply some medicine and clean water. But, it is a massive problem and all the church can do is pray for hope.
Rao responds that hope is useless to these people. Rao asks Kevin what he should do. Kevin says they should make it so these people do not need help. Rao then transforms the barren wasteland of the African town into a lush and fertile paradise. (Wow! I need to hire Rao to landscape my crappy looking backyard.)
The Pastor says that the Africans will not starve anymore but that they still will be victim to the brutal African warlords and corrupt governments. Rao says that they will just have to change that, too.
We shift to the UN discussing how Rao has toppled all of the corrupt regimes in Africa. The UN is concerned that Rao was able to do all of that in just one day. The UN worries that maybe tomorrow Rao decided he objects to how humans handle their own human rights. That they should ask Rao to slow down or stop all together until they all can agree on a proper plan.
Suddenly, Rao appears and says that he will not stop until his work his finished. And if the UN gets in his way then he will have to be more forceful in his persuasion.
We cut to Batman meeting Superman on a rooftop. Batman asks Superman if he is sure about Rao before Batman takes matters into his own hands. That Batman is going to find out the truth about Rao and what he is up to. Batman says that Superman used to symbolize truth. Superman says that he still does.
Batman replies that Superman gifted Rao to the people of Earth. And that Superman told the people of Earth to accept Rao. That Superman’s speeches and grand gestures got the world to trust Rao. Superman says that the world is better with Rao here. Batman replies “Yes. Heal the sick. Feed the hungry. What’s the cost?”
Superman asks why Batman can’t just trust that Rao is here to help. Batman replies that trust is in Superman’s DNA’s and not in Batman’s DNA. Batman says they should question everything. That is how you stand for truth. Batman locates Arthur Spinks. Batman says that Spinks was one of Rao’s first converts. Batman tells Superman to show him that he is wrong. Batman tells Superman to show Batman that he can believe. Superman asks “In Rao?” Batman replies “In you.” (That was a great scene.)
We shift back in time to 1961. We see three people in a lab. These three people have time travelled to 1961. They have magic stones that are giving them information about where they have arrived and what is going on. Suddenly, a blast of lightning hits the room and the Flash appears on the scene.
We cut to ancient Krypton. Green Lantern asks his power ring to open a wormhole to get him back to present day Oa. The ring says that it cannot. Hal asks the ring to open a channel to Oa. The ring says that it cannot.
We see one of the ancient Kryptonian armies retreating. The other army stays and asks Hal to come with them. The ring translates between the Krytptonians and Hal. The Kryptonian army leader says that their master would be honored if Hal would come to their holy citadel to talk with him.
The ring then tells Hal that the temporary interference preventing the ring from creating a wormhole or contacting Oa is planetwide. Hal decides that the holy citadel is a good place to start looking for the source of th temporal interference. Hal then marches off with the Kryptonian army. The leader of the army thanks Green Lantern for coming with them and that they are headed to Kandor where Hal can meet the great god Rao. End of issue.
The Good: Justice League of America #3 was an average read. It failed to move me in one direction or another. Justice League of America #3 is the Toyota Camry of comic books. It is going to reliably get you from A to B just fine but it will do so in the most unexciting and bland fashion. Justice League of America #3 was neither exciting nor offensive. It just dutifully moved the various plot lines forward in an incremental fashion and then delivered a hook ending to try to entire the reader to come back for the next issue. But, at no point in this issue did the story actually excite the reader or offer up much in the form of entertainment.
Justice League of America #3 opened up with a lively scene with Flash and Green Lantern. Unfortunately, the little bit of action and excitement that we got in that scene would be all of the action and excitement that we got for the entire issue. Hitch gets this issue off to a rough start and stumbles through the first 14 pages. It is not until we arrive at the final seven pages that this issue finally delivers a well plotted and paced story.
The final seven pages are much more concise and tighter constructed. The only actual plot development occurs in these final seven pages. Hitch gets his act in gear and delivers a properly concise 1 page scene with Rao and the United Nations. This one page scene shows that Hitch does understand the concept of compressed story telling.
The next scene is a brilliant two page scene between Batman and Superman. This scene is the high point of Justice League of America #3. This is the only scene that delivers well crafted dialogue that engages the reader’s interest and this is also the only scene that delivers some quality character work. I really enjoyed this scene. The chemistry between Batman and Superman was rippling off of the page. Hitch successfully tapped into the undercurrent of distrust that exists in the Batman/Superman dynamic. This scene effectively contrasts the naturally positive, hopefully and, frankly, naive attitude of Superman with Batman’s cynical, untrusting and always questioning personality. Each character played his role perfectly.
What made this scene even more powerful and enjoyable was the twist at the end of the scene. Batman revealing that he was actually talking about Superman helping to prove to Batman that he can believe in Superman instead of Rao was brilliant. This was so well-played. Despite all of Batman’s darkness and cynicism the fact remains that he does desperately want something in this world that he can truly believe in. Superman has always been the only character capable of earning that from Batman. And it is something that Batman needs in order to save him from being completely consumed by the darkness and insanity of the world that he inhabits.
Hitch then delivers a concise two page scene with the Flash appearing in 1961. Then the issue ended with a solid hook ending with Hal being taken to Kandor to meet Rao himself. That was a nice twist at the end that helps to get the reader interested in the next issue. Hitch definitely has some cool plot lines running in this issue with Rao on present day Earth and how that plays into what has happened on Olympus and what is going on in ancient Krypton. Hitch has the basic ingredients for an entertaining story.
However, it remains to be seen if Hitch has the proper technical writing skills to deliver it in a well crafted package. And this is the reason why I prefer a professional writer write the story while the artist focuses on the artwork. I do not mind an artist that contributes some of the general ideas or plot lines to the story. That is fine. It is easier to come up with general plot ideas than it is to actually write an issue. It requires a talented professional writer with the proper basic technical skill to be able to craft an issue that effectively brings the cool plot ideas to life. I think that Hitch would have been better served being a c0-plotter with a professional writer rather than being left to do all the writing himself.
I definitely love the line-up in this issue. Hitch picks the classic Justice League of America cast for his story. For my money? It simply does not get any better than this cast. Also, it is great to see Hal in his classic Green Lantern uniform rather than his 1990’s Renegade look he is sporting in his own title. And, of course, it is always lovely to see Wonder Woman in the only costume she should ever wear.
Hitch serves up some solid artwork. This is not Hitch’s best work. And that could be a result of him having to shoulder both the writing and art duties. Still, there are some dramatic double page splash shots in this issue. And, in general, this is a good-looking super hero comic book.
The Bad: Justice League of America #3 was a boring read. Nothing really happens at all in this issue. Flash gets teleported to another time and place. Rao cleans house in Africa. And…that’s about it. The lack of any real substance or depth to the story made this issue the kind of issue that the reader quickly forgets about once they are done.
The excellent pacing and plotting of the final seven pages made the first fourteen pages that much more disappointing. The fact that Hitch can deliver a tightly plotted and paced issue but actively chooses not to is unfortunate. Justice League of America #3 is lazily plotted and paced for the majority of the issue. The story meanders about with zero sense of urgency. The first 14 pages were the product of too much decompression. The scenes in the first 14 pages could have all been done in half the amount of panel time. Easily.
Hitch wastes six pages just having Hal and Green Lantern appear on Krypton, have Hal recharge his ring and then have Barry disappear. That should have been a 2-3 page scene at the most. But, we had to have a double page splash shot to kick off the scene for no apparent reason at all other than the artist wanted one and since he is also writing the issue, well, he gets one! This six page scene was as shallow and lacking in content as possible and really came across like Hitch was wasting time.
Hitch then burns three pages on Wonder Woman’s scene on Olympus. Three pages to find out that the gods fled right before Olympus was destroyed and nobody knows where the gods are or who destroyed Olympus. C’mon. That is a one to two page scene at the most. The Wonder Woman scene nearly put me to sleep. One of the main problems with this scene, which surfaced in other scenes, was a complete lack of emotion. Wonder Woman reacts to the destruction of Olympus and the disappearance of the gods with the a blasé attitude like she went to Whole Foods and found out that there was no more quinoa in stock.
Hitch then spends five pages on Rao and the church volunteers. This scene could have easily been accomplished in 3-4 pages. This scene simply hammered home already well-worn ground by this point in the story. The reader already understands what Rao can do and what he is trying to do. To have to sit through Rao going on and on about how he is God and is here to wipe away all the evils off of Earth was not particularly necessary. It slowed down the story, made it feel repetitious and lost the interest of the reader.
Outside of the Batman and Superman scene, the dialogue was bland. None of the other characters had much of a unique external voice. There was no flow to the dialogue at all. Likewise with the character work. Outside of the Batman and Superman scene there was next to no character work at all. All of the characters were presented in a most generic manner.
The combination of the average dialogue and missing character work combined to create an issue where all of the characters seemed robotic. Everyone simply went through the motions without anything in the way of actual emotions. In fact, the entire issue is draped in a blanket of lifelessness. This issue felt hollow. The characters are more like marionettes as they react blandly to what is going on around them.
DC’s continuity continues to be a hot mess. Where does Justice League of America #3 fit in with the rest of ongoing titles involving these various Justice League members? How does Wonder Woman in this issue mesh with the Victorian Era dressed Wonder Woman over in her title and in Superman/Wonder Woman? How does the Superman in this issue mesh with Dude Bro Superman over in Action, Superman, Batman/Superman and Superman/Wonder Woman? How does the Batman in this issue mesh with the Batman over in Detective Comics, Batman and Batman/Superman? How does the Green Lantern in this issue mesh with Hal over in his title? Who knows?! Evidently nobody at DC’s editorial staff knows!
Overall: Justice League of America #3 is an issue that has a cool plot and some neat ideas but Hitch’s technical writing skills are so lacking that we never get to enjoy the full potential of this story. I love this roster of characters in all of their classic glory. And I want so badly to recommend this title. But, given the expensive cover price and the numerous other superior super hero comics currently being published I just cannot recommend spending your money for this issue. Hitch’s Justice League of America may be a comic that is better served reading in trade format if at all.